Lee is one of the featured keynote speakers at this year’s STPCon (in Miami October 15-18) where he’ll be telling the audience about real life companies who have successfully mastered effective testing in an “efficient manner without sacrificing quality.” When he’s not speaking, Lee is an Agile coach and Certified SCRUM trainer. Follow him on twitter or visit his website to get some helpful Agile insights.
In today’s Testing the Limits, Lee will take us through why he thinks Agile is better, what it takes to succeed, why certifications are a good thing, how to convince your company to switch to Agile and more.
uTest: We are excited that our CMO Matt Johnston will be speaking with you as a keynote at STPCon, where you’ll be covering Agile testing. Can you tell us a little bit about effective testing methods, why agile is often misunderstood and how it can be the most effective testing solution?
Lee Henson: I am super excited to be presenting at the keynote session of STPCon with Matt. I am looking forward to both meeting with him and learning from one of the best in the business. My views on effective testing methods are often considered very interesting. I believe that the best test is the one that is developed before a line of code is ever written. Regardless of what field you are in, defining success should fall way before measuring defeat. Many people believe that in addition to doing more with less, that Agile means saving everything for the last responsible moment without any up-front lifting. This is simply not true. Agile requires the discipline to define reasonable acceptance criteria and the willingness of the team to assume a more cross functional role when it comes to testing what has been built. Through the use of testing automation, enhanced unit testing and a willingness to refactor poorly written code, Agile testing methods truly do shine above the rest. The results are more immediate and give the team and stakeholders more frequent opportunities to inspect and adapt.
uTest: At AgileDad, what are the top three points you make to organizations to push them to make the transition from traditional testing to Agile?
LH: a) Agile testing provides a more frequent opportunity to review the tests you have in place to best ensure that you have adequate coverage across the most critical portions of your application.
b) As requirements continue to evolve and emerge in the Agile process, Agile testing allows for ease of updating the test plan with tests that will grow as your product offering emerges and grows.
c) Agile testing makes both developers and testers better at what they do. It forces them to think outside the box and blurs the line for many when it comes to cross-pollination. Developers want to write better code to impress the testers and avoid having to frequently revisit and refactor code. Testers learn to better understand how code works and functions which increases their proficiency at writing meaningful tests. This increases the value of your product and organization.
uTest: With your expertise in GUI web development – what are the most common GUI mistakes developers make, and in your opinion, how much of a difference can usability testing really make?
LH: Developers often get stuck in a position where they forget the key role or persona that will be interacting with the system they are building. This causes developers to either build the product geared towards a role that is too broad or to an audience that is not relevant. Usability testing is just so critical when building GUI Applications. Great GUI testing reminds me of being a great chef. While the developers are micro focused on preparing the perfect recipe, all the end user wants is a prepared dish that exceeds their expectations when it comes to taste. We need to take more time to understand at a greater depth who our intended audience is and make certain that the recipe matches their tastes. I can point out numerous examples of where the interface was frequently tested and put in front of the customer yielding a high value result in record time. Great GUI testing will increase your bottom line!
uTest: You invented the concept of rapid release planning. Can you tell us a little more about that? Besides serving as a guide, why is agile release planning so valuable to development teams?
LH: Sure, Rapid Release Planning, (RRP), was three years of blood sweat and tears in the making. The driving force behind it was that developers and testers felt like they needed every intricate detail about the work before they could give a reasonable forecast to the executive team about the size or scope of upcoming work. RRP created a way that with minimal up front preparation from the product ownership group and stakeholders, teams would have the ability to rapidly size items, confirm their estimates, briefly discuss disparity in sizing with the product ownership group and identify dependencies in record time. For many years we have taken tests and have been told that out gut instinct is typically correct. RRP combines the method of multi-team rapid based estimation, with the Agile story mapping model that gives us the assurance and confidence that enough validation was complete to give the leadership team a realistic estimate with confidence for work that is scheduled to be completed 90+ days out. We are talking about hundreds of items with up to six teams in under an hour. Not to mention this method is 80-85% accurate. The value of RRP comes in involving the teams earlier in the Agile process which gives them a feeling of investment in the project. The value to the Executive team comes in the ability to forecast with confidence what may fall in or out of a 90 day release window. It also allows them to see which items if any are at risk which allows them to make the most important decisions faster.
uTest: With more than a decade in the software production environment you must have experienced other testing methodologies beside Agile. What made you fall in love with Agile so much that you’re now known as AgileDad?
LH: Wow, now I feel old. I have seen many different methods come and go. I will go on the record as saying that Agile is here to stay. Agile truly is a part of me. Anyone who knows me well will tell you that I truly do live an Agile life. When I am teaching others about Agile, the first definition that comes to mind is that Agile is about making great choices. I really like Agile testing because it draws emphasis to the truth about pushing forward. It eliminates indecision. It points out that the very worst that can happen is that you make an incorrect decision early and you have enough time in the process to course correct. Traditional environments only allow you to learn about the failures at the end and do not promote best decision making practices. I am wired to get things done, it is part of my DNA. I have seen enough projects flounder in analysis paralysis or pure indecision.
uTest: At STPCon you’ll be talking about “Ely Executive” and his journey “as he realizes the value and importance of quality.” Who is Ely Executive? Can you give us as little sneak peek into his journey? (Something to whet our whistle’s for STPCon?)
LH: As we suffer through one of the nations greatest economic downturns in recent history, we journey through a period where executives’ and enterprises’ focus on operational and organizational efficiency is at an all time high. What many fail to grasp is that the purest forms of efficiency sometimes come with a great hit to quality. Ely is a fictional character persona I created years ago to get my mind around the way highest level executives face and solve problems. Without giving too much away, this keynote presentation will present the journey of realization that many executives have faced when trying to balance quality with time to market and product selection. Let’s just say I find that I have a lot in common with the way Ely thinks. We all have met Ely at some point in our career. He is a very bright executive faced with some of the toughest decisions of his career. It really is a great presentation and I hope it will prove to be a life changing experience for many who attend.
uTest: You wrote the Definitive Agile Checklist a few years ago now. Is there anything you would add to that list today?
LH: The day after I created the document I had a short list of things I could have done to make it better. I wish I would have included Rapid Release Planning which was not invented until later. I wish I would have included a better retrospective agenda. I wish I would have covered more on roles and responsibilities. I wish I would have included more on the Agile 12 Step Transition Program. I wish I would have been clear that Agile is NOT all or nothing. Most importantly, I wish I would have placed much heavier interest on the importance of quality. This type of thought process is what makes me love and appreciate Agile so much. I can always create a new iteration of the checklist or create a few additional documents. I just LOVE to write. With all of the thoughts that rattle around up here, I can see a book at some point in my future. I was asked by the publisher to compress this document smaller and smaller with the great focus being on Agile Meetings. It is a great document for Agile teams, but in no way is it the only document you will ever need.
uTest: You have quite a few certifications – Certified Scrum Trainer, PMI-Agile Certified Practitioner. Official testing certification is one of the more contentious topics within the testing world. Based on your bio, I’m assuming you’re in favor of certifications. What would you say to people who are skeptical of certs? What benefit do you see in them?
LH: A very close friend once sat with me and tried to put all of the letters I have acquired in my career behind my name. We got down to a half page and called it a day. My dear friend nicknamed me alphabet soup. I just love to learn. I am always open to new and innovative ways to do things. With that being said I do very strongly believe in certifications. I am not proclaiming that having a testing certification for example makes you a better tester, but I will claim that going through the process to acquire some of the more rigorous certifications shows that as a tester you have the mettle and fortitude needed to solve the most complex issues. For me, the certification lends credibility. It allows others to know that I am not a bag of hot air. I have more years of experience on the ground inside of organizations than any other coach I know. This assures them that I have the book knowledge to back up the experience I have. It lets them know that I believe in a high standard and that I hold myself to that standard. It also shows that I support the community in which I work. At the end of the day, each certification I have is a glowing endorsement of what I feel is important. It took many years to become a Certified Scrum Trainer. It took great study and experience to be able to answer the hardest questions. Some of my certifications proved to be more difficult to acquire than a college degree. While I understand that some people are not interested in the certifications, I would challenge them to really point out what separates them from the rest. I have been in the position of hiring manager at every level and I can assure you that a credible certification does indeed stand for something. It often helped me make the decision of which candidate to hire. Getting a certification is something you will never regret.
uTest: Large, well-established companies often have a lot of red tape when it comes to making changes. How do you convince the Fortune 100 companies you work with that Agile is a worthwhile endeavor?
LH: Agile sells itself most of the time. When I can walk in with a long list of companies (often competitors) where Agile has been implemented and is working very effectively, I assert that while I cannot promise they will have the same results, there is a very good chance that we can help you realize the benefits of implementing Agile. The red tape is often just the smoke. We all know that when there is smoke we should be looking for the fire. Setting clear, realistic expectations and delivering iterative high quality products right away is often all of the proof I need. It really does work effectively every time!
uTest: What is Lee doing when he’s not being a super awesome Agile guru/Scrum Master?
LH: I am an AgileHusband and AgileDad! I have been happily married to the girl of my dreams for over 12 years. She is the love of my life and I look forward to spending many years of quality time with her. I also have four beautiful children that I just adore and spoil to death. I am a frequent keynote and motivational speaker on the conference circuit. I live to inspire others. I have just come to love the personal growth opportunities I have seen for people who make Agile a part of their life. I really enjoy helping people make the mission critical decisions that help them align their lives with the standards they choose to live. I am dearly passionate about all things Disney and enjoy being a part of a much larger mission to bring joy and happiness to all those I encounter. I love to travel and embrace people of every culture. I have lived a life where I can actually say that I am happy with the choices I have made and I long to share a slice of that happiness with others.